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Politics & Government

Idaho Medicaid Expansion Advocates Rally For "Clean" Implementation

James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Hundreds of people rallied at the Idaho Capitol Monday to demand lawmakers fund a "clean" Medicaid expansion without work requirements or other restrictions.

About 300 people took to the capitol steps in Boise Monday demanding state lawmakers to “do your job” and implement Medicaid expansion without any restrictions.

The popular initiative passed by nearly 61 percent in November. Supporters who gathered said they don’t want work requirements, copays or premiums tacked on – all of which have been brought up as possibilities.

“For 61 percent of Idahoans to agree on an issue and for the vast majority of counties and state legislative districts to have voted for it, that is a very clear declaration of the will of the voters,” says Luke Mayville, a of the co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, the group that got Medicaid expansion on the ballot.

The group isn’t worried that Idaho lawmakers may take cues from the Utah Legislature, which is moving quickly to significantly limit a similar successful ballot initiative to expand Medicaid. State senators there passed a package of restrictions Monday afternoon.

It’s unclear if similar restrictions would pass in Idaho, but the Lewiston Tribune reports that 15 Republicans are drafting a package of add-ons that could include lifetime limits, co-pays and work requirements.

Lawmakers would have to bypass the chairman of a key Senate committee, who has pledged to block such efforts. They’d also need federal approval.

Gov. Brad Little (R) has said he supports a public safety net, but that there needs to be some “spring” in it to help people rebound out of needing government services.

While Mayville doesn't support any restrictions, he says legislators can debate them, but they should fund the expansion first for the benefit of the estimated 91,000 people eligible for health coverage.

“To give them that reassurance by at least putting the funding through and then postponing that debate over work requirements, I think, would give a lot of peace of mind to people all over the state,” he says.

Lawmakers are also waiting for the state Supreme Court to rule on the law's constitutionality after the Idaho Freedom Foundation filed a lawsuit shortly after voters signed off on the ballot measure last November.

Coverage could start as early as next January barring any changes to the law.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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